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May 27, 2010 at 4:53 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Chicago

STREAK OVER: Seattle was awful and knew it, talking endlessly about it after the game. The only player who seemed to have fight was Cash, who played the most minutes in the opening half (17). Otherwise, the lack of defense and missing offensive flow led to a 84-75 loss before 2,923. Jackson led with 15 points and 11 boards while Abrosimova had 13 off the bench. But it was the Sky’s reserves in Prince (13 points) and Thorn (13), who helped secure the win. Especially Thorn’s four FTs in the final 26 seconds. Fowles was huge to start the game, finishing with an impressive 19 points and eight boards with four blocks. Seattle travels to San Antonio on Friday for another tough game. Agler said he’s going to be in the team’s ear because they don’t have much time to practice to fix the defensive mistakes.
HOLD UP?: A pair of FTs by rookie Alison Lacey made the score 78-70 Chicago. Agler put Little in the game, maybe things can turnaround? But there’s just a minute left.
TOWEL THROWN: Agler put in an all-bench lineup, theoretically throwing in the towel. But since the starters weren’t really doing anything and the bench has pulled the team within 73-62, it’s a good move. There’s 3:21 remaining on the clock.
CAN’T SHOOT: The Storm is shooting 38 percent from the field, the main difference in the game. The Sky is shooting 50 percent to take a 65-48 lead into the final quarter and I don’t think Seattle is coming back from this one. Both coaches have played their entire roster, Agler putting Australian Abby Bishop in to start the fourth quarter. Jackson is on the court with Bishop, but collected her fourth foul. Chicago leads 67-52 with 7:38 remaining.
STAT GLANCE: It was a 13-2 run to finish the second quarter for the Sky. They held Seattle scoreless for the final five minutes. The team is shooting 38.2 percent from the field and amazingly not getting outrebounded. Finding trouble scoring inside has the Storm shooting more threes, going 1 for 7 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile the Sky is shooting 50 percent, getting a solid game from Fowles (13 points, 7 boards, two blocks). Christon is scoreless (0 for 3), but rookie Epiphanny Prince is 3-for-3 off the bench for eight points. Asked Key about her moving into the starting lineup and he was hesitant, saying a good night doesn’t make a starter. True, but a few does in my book.
HALFTIME: Three-pointers by reserve Erin Thorn and Perkins have the Sky up 42-29 at the break. The Storm had an energetic spurt, to open the game but sputtered with the balance of Chicago’s inside-out attack. Kraayeveld and Fowles are really playing well together. But this is where the Sky slips and the Storm comes alive.
THANKS MATE: Fowles will play in Turkey this offseason, not wanting to experience another cold winter, but spent the past two in Moscow with Bird and one with Jackson. Fowles said Jackson particularly helped her develop her game, getting in her ear about how talented Fowles is. “It was good being under their wing,” Fowles said. “I think I’m ready to break out. But this is the first season being completely healthy, so we’ll see.” Fowles has already teamed with Kraayeveld to block two shots inside and alter many others in helping the Sky lead 34-27 with 2:39 remaining before halftime. Fowles has 13 points.
HAVE A SEAT: Agler mentioned the starters’ minutes decreasing slowly over the season and it’s starting tonight. Jackson, Little and Bird sat for a while during the opening quarter as Agler looked for a combination to get the game going. Reserves Ashley Robinson and Svetlana Abrosimova gave their team some good minutes, but the Storm is down 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.
WHAT’S THAT?: Chicago has me cracking up daily. There’s no HOV lane here, so when I mentioned to a driver that maybe he should take it, the response was “What is that? I’ve always wondered what that stands for” So, I explained only for him to tell me it must be a West Coast thing. At the arena, seasoned reporters Steve Huntley and Lacy Banks of the Sun Times immediately asked, “What’s a Bing?” Personally, I’ve been waiting for this question. I explained and Huntley said, “Like I’m supposed to know that, I’m old!” Funny. Turns out Huntley and Bird’s father go way back and used to hang in Las Vegas together. He also has been covering Canty since she was in the sixth grade. Suddenly my seat just got better.
Can we get personal? Seattle’s is at Chicago’s new home, Allstate Arena, and the facility has a great vibe. A real pro feel and, like Storm coach Brian Agler said, it’s reminiscent of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena. Only instead of great shopping, slot machines and yummy restaurants outside the door, there’s a Target.
It’s all fabulous unless you’re media. We’re tucked behind pseudo posh seating for VIPs and I’m hoping things don’t get exciting for Chicago because there goes my view (and reporting for you).
But enough about me. Despite the polar opposite records after four games, the Sky (0-4) and Storm (4-0) are searching for the same things Thursday — consistency. Both coaches spoke before the game about possibly tweaking what they run to shake the slugs. Chicago coach Steven Key said his team hits its lull after halftime while Seattle coach Brian Agler said it’s the opening half.
“How to fix it is probably with energy and effort,” Key said. “We’re going to try to do something different, maybe speed things up. We’ve got to address the sluggish start because we don’t want to take away any energy we have built up. Be a little bit more focused. To say we need to be more focused is redundant, but for us I think the most important thing is for us to be aware of it and we are.”
From covering Seattle through the years, they have grown so talented that it appears the team just toys with its opponent through three quarters. And it’s not like the fourth is a complete highlight reel, but the team is so experienced, they know what to do to win.
That’s all that’s important, anyway. Seattle used to own Chicago, winning the opening six games since the franchise was established in 2006. But the Sky swept the Storm in 2009. Then-rookie Kristi Toliver’s three-point shooting coupled with All-Star Candice Dupree (28 points) ended the Storm’s long-standing home winning (15) in July. Dupree had 14 while C Sylvia Fowles grabbed 15 boards in a June win against Seattle in Chicago.
Yet, since both teams have changed dramatically — Chicago with its starting lineup and Seattle with its reserves — the games are moot. We’ll, err, you’ll see how much of a difference it makes Thursday. I’ll be watching VIPs nosh on a catered buffet.
Here’s your starting lineups:
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
F Shameka Christon
F Cathrine Kraayeveld
C Sylvia Fowles
G Jia Perkins
G Dominique Canty
Tonight’s officials are Sue Blauch, Brenda Pantoja, and James Williams.



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